White Children Are More Likely To Think Race is Changeable, Researchers Say

May 20, 2016

Credit Creative Commons

A study from the University of Michigan shows that racial identity is considered fluid by white preschoolers.

 


Researchers looked at whether young children believed that race was stable throughout life, or could change.  U-M Ph.D candidate Steven Roberts is a co-author of the study.  "How children think about race is definitely changing to some extent," he says. "Now is that changing for the better or for the worse?" 

Researchers found that white children aged 5 to 6 years old were more likely to believe the race is not stable, while a group of mostly black children of the same age are more likely to believe that race is a fixed identity.

 

'They showed participants pictures of children who were happy or angry and black or white, and asked them to indicate which of two adults each child would grow up to be. One adult matched the child in emotion (but not race) and the other matched the child in race (but not emotion).

Participants could have chosen a same-emotion but different race match, or a same-race but different emotion match.

White adults, white 9- to 10-year-olds and racial minority 5- to 6-year-olds selected the same-race matches, which meant they believed, for instance, that a white child would grow up to be a white adult.

But white 5- to 6-year-olds showed a different pattern. They selected the same-emotion and same-race matches at equal rates, which meant they were not committed to the belief that race was stable.'

 

Roberts says the study has received a lot of attention since being recently published in Developmental Psychology.

Find a link to it here.

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— Amanda LeClaire is a reporter for 89.1 WEMU News.  Contact her at 734.487.3363 or email her aleclair@emich.edu